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Ternality Theory

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Theoretical implications of the discontinuity

What are the wider theoretical implications of recognising the discontinuity between information and imparity? Apparently, it points the way to the development of a third paradigm for purpose and directiveness.

The first paradigm

Calling it the 'third' one is based on the notion that the first paradigm was the traditional Aristotelian one, based on the doctrine of the Four Causes. This is the one which, in some form, most non-cyberneticians still believe in today, but which gives rise to many well-documented difficulties. This first paradigm uses the classical one-domain mechanisms of matter and energy only. These were traditionally seen as being inconsistent with teleology, from which it was believed to follow that purposive behaviour necessitated something non-mechanistic-perhaps even some form of reverse causality.

Note that, on the diagram of three domains, the traditional Aristotelian paradigm uses only the bottom third. This is the domain of materiality.


Figure button   The stratified menu


The second paradigm

The second paradigm was the one developed by Rosenblueth, Wiener and Bigelow (Rosenblueth et al, 1943), and by the Josiah Macy Conferences. This adds a second domain, that of information, to that of classical physics, and it is this two-domain paradigm which most cyberneticians believe in. This one uses two-domain mechanisms, in which information is expressed by circular flows of energy, which return the information to the input as feedback. This second paradigm also gives rise to problems with purposiveness, which have persisted as unfinished business ever since cybernetics began.

On the diagram of three domains, this traditional cybernetic paradigm uses the bottom two-thirds—both the domain of materiality and that of differentiae.

The third paradigm

The most far-reaching theoretical implication of recognising the importance of the discontinuity between information and imparity is the suggestion that the same operation should be performed again, this time adding a third domain to the two already recognised.

On the diagram of three domains, the third paradigm thereby created uses all three of them—those of materiality, of differentiae, and of imparity.

The third paradigm opens up some possibilities which are not available in the first or in the second paradigm (Stewart, 1999b).

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© Copyright D J Stewart 1998, 2003. All rights reserved.

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